Rival bidders seek new place in the sun for Club Med

Wed Sep 17, 2014 10:08am EDT
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By Dominique Vidalon and Andrew Callus

PARIS (Reuters) - Laurent Rigault, 53, is a child of Club Mediterranee CMIP.PA. After his first stay with his parents in 1966 he became hooked on the experience - beach shacks, communal showers and all.

More recently he has shunned the resorts, like thousands of other holidaymakers whose decisions to head for alternative destinations has helped plunge the company into the red and left it to be fought over by two rival bidders.

Rigault's love affair with the pioneer of the all-inclusive holiday lasted until 1991 and a disappointing stay in Smir, Morocco. "The room was old, the paint was peeling and the shower was clogged," said Rigault, a research executive, who has since turned to rivals for his all-inclusive summer holidays.

Club Med’s customer base has shrunk by half a million in the past decade. The last time it paid a dividend was in 2000.

Two billionaires are now fighting over the company, in a battle pitching Italian tycoon Andrea Bonomi against one of China's richest men, Guo Guangchang, and his Shanghai-based conglomerate Fosun 0656.HK.

Both hope new investment and a push into new markets will do the trick. They will not be the first to try.

It all began for Club Med in 1950 when Belgian water polo player Gerard Blitz and tent supplier Gilbert Trigano set up a get-away club for people with a taste for outdoor living.

The first resort, on Alcudia Beach on the Balearic island of Mallorca, offered basic accommodation and shared bathrooms. Grainy film from the early days shows dancing holidaymakers and khaki, U.S. army-surplus tents in the background.   Continued...

A woman walks past a Club Med travel agency in Paris, July 24, 2014. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier